Tonight I was watching Whisper of the Heart, a Japanese animated film, with my family. It’s a coming-of-age story of a 15 year-old girl who discovers what she loves to do in her life, inspired by a boy she meets and falls in love with.
As I watched it, I was struck by how true-to-life the story is, particularly how it portrayed the protagonist Shizuku’s fear, obsession, vulnerability, and drive concerning her calling — which turns out to be her writing. She’s a voracious reader and dabbled in writing original lyrics to a famous song, but she never seriously considered writing. When the boy she adores goes to Italy to give a shot at becoming a violin maker, she challenges herself to write a novel in his absence, to see if she has what it takes. The process consumes her and topples her off-balance, and her schoolwork, friendships, and family life all take a strain. When she delivers the story to her first reader, she’s so nervous and scared she begs him to read it on the spot while she waited, though she couldn’t bear to watch him read. When she is finished, she’s so relieved she falls asleep in her day-time clothes.
Why am I telling you all this? It’s because that’s how I feel about music.
The last couple of weeks, I had been contemplating a different matter. I’ve had some great, exciting networking conversations around my web development work and I wondered if I should pursue it more seriously. I never intended to pursue full-time freelance work in that field, as I already have a terrific full-time job, but it turns out that my work is more valuable than I first thought and there is a demand for it out there. I see so many web sites and online businesses where I can contribute, opportunities everywhere. Plus, my aspiration is to own a business — not just be a freelancer. Freelancing will be a great transition into that phase, and I’d form my own web agency down the road.
So I had been thinking, thinking and thinking, trying to formulate plans, calculating how much work at what rate I needed to land, thinking about how to frame myself and my business so that I’ll be in demand yet won’t attract the wrong kind of work/clients…. All these scheming had got me tense, I was losing sleep, being over-stimulated and excited.
But something wasn’t quite adding up. I knew that venturing out on my own, even if I manage to stay afloat, will consume me. I’ll be in constant fear of having to find my next work, I don’t know how I’ll be able to rest, when just thinking about it makes me so restless.
Then watching the film and relating to the story — it just put things in perspective.
The heart of my calling is still music. It’s the thing that scares and challenges me the most. I do have entrepreneurial ambitions and owning some kind of web agency is part of that picture, but the timing seems premature to head in that direction, when I have a bigger fish to catch.
I’m grateful for all the freelance work I’m getting, and launching and succeeding as a freelancer or even a web agency owner will be a monumental achievement. But, I know in my heart that that’s still not as big as making a mark as a musician. In a few months my landscape may change dramatically and pursuing freelance may make sense. But not right now. I need to keep confronting my Resistance and put together more songs, find a singer, and continue blogging to find my audience. Much web work will happen in the mean time, and I am grateful that I have a skillset that can both pay the bills and serve as the vehicle for my Evil Plan. But the priority remains on music. That’s the bigger, heavier, and more futile-feeling direction, and hence, I need to keep going that way.
Phew! I feel a bit relieved to figure this out. Maintaining my balance in itself is an all-consuming challenge right now, and every time I do take the time to make music, I’m overcome by two conflicting feelings — one of bursting pride, and the other of powerlessness, which is the voice that whispers “how is this ever going to add up? This can’t possibly lead to anything noteworthy.”
The important lesson, again, is that Resistance is the strongest where your greatest gift lies. You can use it as a compass. I know the right way.
A whisper of the heart, indeed.